Pooping in the woods. There’s nothing quite like it. It can be anywhere from sublime to downright uncomfortable. I’ve camped with people who look forward to striking out in search of their ideal deed-doing spot. And I’ve camped with those who engage in astonishing feats of self-control to avoid it. But let’s be honest, if you are going on adventures in the backcountry, at some point you have to poo. There are right ways to do it and wrong ways. If you’re wondering how to poop in the woods, we’re here for you.

As such, we’d like to share a video of the essential skills by BackpackingTV. They’ve got some great tips, show us the Leave No Trace way, and even leave us with a few mysteries to ponder, like what is the “Starfish” method anyway??

Without further ado, let’s get into the doo-doo’s and do-don’t’s of how to poop in the woods.


How to Poop in the Woods

Picking a Spot

When choosing your ceremonial site, make sure you’re at least 200 feet away from campsites, trails and places that look really inviting for people to hang out. Also, choose a spot that has good soil and organic material that will help break down your poop.

There are lots of wonderful, weird and wonderfully weird ways you can take care of your business in the wilderness, but we’re going to look at the most widely approved technique for poopin’ in the backcountry.

This involves digging a cathole about 6-8 inches deep, which you’ll then cover up when you’re done. Don’t just leave your poop out in the open for the world to see, and don’t just put a rock on top of it to hide it like a booby trap, because somebody will find it.

When you’re finished, show some respect and give your business a proper burial. If your cathole isn’t deep enough, which is called a “shallow grave,” it’s likely an animal will dig it up or be found by other people. Also, if your cathole is too deep, your poop won’t break down properly.

What to Do With Your Toilet Paper

When it comes to using toilet paper, in some areas, it’s acceptable to the TP in the cathole. Just make sure it’s fully buried, and there aren’t any party streamers for people to see. In other areas, you’re required to carry all your used toilet paper.

This might sound really gross, but it’s not that big of a deal. All you need to do is fold your TP in half and place it into a Ziploc® bag. And just so you know, this is how you deal with feminine hygiene products as well.

If you don’t like the sound of carrying around used toilet paper, you can always go natural instead. Look for smooth rocks, sticks and leaves. These are often just as effective. Just make sure you know what Poison Ivy looks like beforehand.

Techniques for Doing the Doo

A rookie wilderness pooper will often employ the highly uncomfortable, thigh-burning “hovercraft” just because it’s the most similar to our position while sitting on a toilet.

The straightforward squat is my go-to technique. It works well really well for both guys and girls. The trick is to not lower your pants all the way down to your ankles. Your pants will be much more out of the way if you just lower them down to your thighs. Then all you gotta do is squat over the cathole like a catcher in Baseball, hang out and enjoy the view.

Whether you use the approved squat technique, the “starfish” or many of the other techniques that are out there–which I’ll let you figure out on your own–the most important thing is to be respectful of others and the environment.


Updated. Originally published April 1st, 2015